Photo by Charlie Guttendorf
One of my favorite races of the year CJ’s Resolution Challenge was held on January 6, 2018. (For those of you who are regular readers, yes, two of my favorite races are both held in January!) How could you not love a race with a penguin participant? I do not usually run the same race year after year. I have done twenty-some marathons, but never the same one twice. I like to try new races. There are three races, however, that I try to run every year, and CJ’s is one of them (the other two are Phunt and Montour 24).
CJ’s raises money for organizations promoting autism awareness, a cause near and dear to my heart. CJ is the nickname of Cullen, the autistic son of the race organizer. I love the race mottoes “Show kindness” and “Freely offer acceptance and patience”. Good mottoes for anyone to follow!
This race has a unique format. You select the type of race you want to do when you register. You can choose from RC Revolutions or Last Man Standing. Both races are run on the same 1.6 mile loop in R. B. Winter State Park outside of Mifflinburg, PA. If you choose RC Revolutions, you are trying to see how many loops you can finish in three hours. For Last Man Standing, you have 20 minutes to complete the first loop, 19 minutes to complete the second, 18 minutes to complete the third, until….well, the name of the race says it all.
My husband and I set out in the dark early morning to travel to Mifflinburg, about two hours north of our house. The day was cold and windy. Here is a picture of the temperature read out on the dashboard of our car (which usually reads a degree or two too high!!!)
We found R. B. Winter State Park with no problem. Side note: The first year I did the race, I traveled by myself. My GPS directed me to turn off the road that leads to the park too early. I wound up on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere. When I finally flagged down the only other vehicle that I saw on the road, a beat up pick up truck, the driver gave me directions, then told me “You shouldn’t be driving out here alone “! We went to packet pick up, which was in a relatively warm heated tent, got our bibs and hoodies, along with a doughnut and some hot coffee, and went back to the car to stay warm.
For this race, I definitely wanted to dress warmly. I put on more clothes than I usually wear. On my legs, I wore a pair of tights that have fleece on the inside that I love for cold weather. On top, I wore a Patagonia quarter zip turtleneck, a tech race shirt from the Marshall University marathon, and a Gramicci fleece. I also wore a buff and fleece cap. On my hands I wore glove liners and gloves. I debated about Yak Trax, and decided to wear them over road shoes.
At 9:00, we got some brief pre-race instructions and were off! The course is half trail and half gravel road. Both travel through the woods of the state park. The trail is not entirely flat, but there is not much elevation change. Same with the road. The trail was entirely snow covered. The road was about 2/3 snow covered. I ran with my husband Bill who was running his first CJ’s. We started off slowly. The race was a little bit congested at the start, since both races start at the same time. The course became less crowded with each successive loop. Some people just come out and run/walk one or two loops to support the cause. We knew that we were going to be out for close to three hours, and we wanted to enjoy the race.
Photo by Charlie Guttendorf
I was very cold for the first loop, even with all of my layers of clothes, especially my hands and feet. I did warm up a little bit during the second loop, but I was still grateful for all of my layers. The 20 mph wind was, unexpectedly, not much of an issue. We were somewhat sheltered in the woods and I never really minded the wind. After the third loop we decided to go into the pavilion that was set up as an aid station and warm up a little bit. The pavilion was shrouded in plastic. Inside they had a blazing fire in the stone fireplace and several kerosene heaters going. They also had 3 different kinds of hot soup. We chose the chicken corn, which was delicious, and exactly what we needed. Back to the run.
As we ran the next loops we were conscious of the Last Man Standing racers going faster and faster. A warning horn was blown at two minutes before the cutoff time for each loop, and if we happened to be close to the finish line, a herd of Last Man racers would go thundering past us, trying to make it across the line before time ran out. After loop six, we went back inside the pavilion for more soup and more warmth.
Not long after we started our seventh loop, I noticed that something was wrong with my Yak Trax. One wire spiral had come loose from the bottom and was dragging on the ground. The trail was not very technical, but there were some rocks and roots. I was worried about catching the dangling wire and falling, so I decided to remove them. It was a little bit slippery on the trail, but on the road I could usually find a bare patch to run on, so it wasn’t too bad.
We finished loop 9 at 2:57. We could have done another loop, since according to the rules of the race, as long as you start your last loop before three hours, it counts, but we were both ready to be done. We collected our wooden medals then went back into the pavilion one last time for some more delicious soup, chips, whoopie pies, peanut butter cookies and hot chocolate. We did not stick around too long, because even with the fire and heaters, we got cold sitting after we finished running.
On our way home we stopped at Shade Mountain Winery to sample (and buy) some of our favorite Pennsylvania wines. When we got home, I took a shower and was out like a light! As it turns out, 3 hours of running in the cold+ 5 wine samples = 11 hours of sleep! Can’t wait to do it again in 2019!